Seven tips for creating an effective reward system at home

By Marissa Will

It can be a challenge to keep kids motivated during the summer months. As an incentive, I started implementing “sticker charts” in our home to encourage my children to meet different goals — and it has been very effective!

A sticker chart is a piece of paper or cardstock where kids can track progress towards a specific goal or expectation. Whether you are creating a DIY sticker chart or searching for a template online, here are seven tips to keep in mind:

  1. Keep it simple. Your sticker chart does not need to be fancy or complicated. It can be as simple as the child’s name and a few empty spaces for stickers.
  2. Pick a goal. Is there something specific you want your child to achieve? Logan, 2, has been using his sticker chart to potty train. Every time he successfully uses the potty he gets a sticker. Olivia, 3, who is starting pre-K this fall, uses her sticker chart to track school work progress.
  3. Choose a “prize” together. What will the child earn when his sticker chart is filled? This doesn’t have to be an expensive toy, it can be as simple as ice cream after dinner.
  4. Set clear expectations and stick to them. For example, Olivia and I decided that she would get a sticker for each worksheet she completes. Another option we considered would be to earn a sticker for every 30 successful minutes of schoolwork. It all depends on what you know your child can accomplish and/or what they need. However, they should only get a sticker if they are completely successful in meeting whatever expectation you set. The amount of stickers they need to earn their prize is also up to you — but make sure it is attainable and age-appropriate.
  5. Make it visible. Put the sticker chart somewhere the child will constantly see and admire. Logan’s sticker chart is in our bathroom above his training potty. Olivia’s is in our living room next to all of her school supplies.
  6. Keep your child involved. Allow them to place the earned stickers on the chart themselves — even if they’re upside down or crooked! I struggled to see my son do this, but it truly provides joy and a sense of accomplishment for them.
  7. Praise them constantly! Children love compliments. Olivia and Logan love to hear their daddy say how proud he is of all their stickers when he gets home from work. It makes them want to work harder at earning more! I have also seen them cheer each other on which has been highly motivating for them.

In what ways can you implement sticker charts with your children?  Share with us on Twitter by tagging @ArizonaEducator or #AZPBSKIDS and tag @azpbskids on Facebook.

About the author

headshot of woman smiling with brown hair wearing a green lace blouse.Marissa Will is the mother of two toddlers, Olivia (4) and Logan (2). Writing was her first passion: she’s a freelance writer and a Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication alumna. Will is currently educating the future leaders of tomorrow: She has spent the past eight years teaching third grade with a master’s degree in elementary education from Northern Arizona University-Yuma.

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